NBA

Thunder rain on Curry's 40-point night, Embiid bullies Timberwolves

By Sports Desk March 07, 2023

Josh Giddey's career-high 17 assists proved too much for the Golden State Warriors to overcome in Tuesday's 137-128 home win for the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The visitors received a vintage performance from reigning NBA Finals MVP Stephen Curry, dropping 40 points on 14-of-23 shooting, including 10-of-16 from deep, while adding seven assists and six rebounds.

It was the most points Curry had scored since Golden State's January 16 victory over the Washington Wizards, where he had 41, and marks a return to his best in his second game back following a month on the sidelines.

Curry has now made at least 10 three-pointers on 23 occasions, while no other player has ever had more than team-mate Klay Thompson's nine.

But the Thunder were too strong as Giddey raced past his previous career-high of 14 assists, while also adding 17 points (six-of-11) and 11 rebounds for his third triple-double of the season, after four in his rookie campaign.

Giddey was supported in style by the league's fifth-leading scorer Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who came into the game averaging 31.1 points per game and gave that figure a small bump with 33 points on 14-of-24 shooting.

With the win – the Thunder's third in a row – they improved their record to 31-34 to join the logjam of teams tied for the Western Conference's ninth and 10th seeds. 

They are only 2.5 games behind the Warriors (34-32), who are narrowly clear of the Play-In Tournament placings, a half-game clear in sixth.

Embiid gets the better of Gobert

In a clash between arguably the most dominant offensive and defensive centers of their generation, Joel Embiid's Philadelphia 76ers overwhelmed Rudy Gobert's Minnesota Timberwolves in a 117-94 blowout.

Embiid was unstoppable, finishing with 39 points in 28 minutes after shooting 13-of-22 from the field, adding seven rebounds, four assists, three blocks and a steal.

With James Harden out following his 20-assist showing in Monday's first leg of their back-to-back, Tyrese Maxey enjoyed a larger role with 27 points (nine-of-16 shooting), five assists and four rebounds, pulling the 76ers (43-22) to within 1.5 games of the second-seeded Boston Celtics (45-21).

Gobert ended up with six points (two-of-six), nine rebounds, two steals and a block.

Kyrie and Luka get back in the winner's list

The mesmerising offensive duo of Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving combined for 62 points in the Dallas Mavericks' close 120-116 home win against the Utah Jazz.

Irving was the more efficient of the two on the offensive end, scoring a team-high 33 points on 10-of-18 shooting (10-of-10 free throws) with eight assists and six rebounds. Doncic was not far behind with 29 points (10-of-23 shooting), 10 rebounds, six assists, two steals and a block.

All-Star Lauri Markkanen kept his terrific season going with 33 points (12-of-20 shooting), but after looking like a potential playoff team early in the campaign, the 31-35 Jazz now sit outside the Play-In Tournament spots.

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    LeBron James has been ruled out of the Los Angeles Lakers' road game against the Golden State Warriors on Thursday as he continues to nurse an ankle problem.

    James has been suffering from peroneal tendinopathy in his left ankle, and the issue caused him to miss the Lakers' 138-122 road win over the Utah Jazz before the All-Star break.

    The NBA's all-time leading scorer did feature in Sunday's All-Star Game, but he was limited to just 14 minutes on the court as the Western Conference All-Stars lost 211-186 to their Eastern Conference counterparts.

    James said before Sunday's game that he would use the break to undergo treatment on his ankle, also suggesting his status for Thursday's trip to Chase Center was uncertain.

    On Wednesday, the Lakers announced he had officially been downgraded to out, causing him to miss his eighth game of the season.

    James had 36 points, 20 rebounds and 12 assists as the Lakers beat the Warriors in a double overtime classic last month, and the 39-year-old is averaging 24.8 points, 7.2 rebounds and 7.8 assists per game this season.

    Prior to the trade deadline earlier this month, the Warriors reportedly enquired about James' availability, only to be knocked back by Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka.

    James said last week that he wishes to finish his glittering career in Los Angeles, though he is yet to decide whether to take up his $51.4million player option for 2024-25.

    Thursday's matchup could prove crucial to the playoff hopes of both teams, with the Lakers emerging from the mid-season hiatus at 30-26 and the Warriors having a 27-26 record. 

  • Marks: Nets must improve 'level of compete' after Vaughn firing Marks: Nets must improve 'level of compete' after Vaughn firing

    Sean Marks says the Brooklyn Nets must improve their "level of compete" after head coach Jacque Vaughn was fired.

    Vaughn was dismissed on Monday after the Nets lost 136-86 to the Boston Celtics last week, leaving Brooklyn at 21-33 and 11th in the Eastern Conference heading into the All-Star break.

    The Nets had made the postseason in the last five seasons, but a 6-18 run has left the team with it all to do if they are to keep their playoff streak going.

    Nets general manager Sean Marks pointed to a perceived lack of effort as one area that must be fixed by the new head coach.

    "It's about the level of compete," Marks told reporters. "We're not going to be the most talented team in the league. I'm not an idiot. I totally understand that.

    "But at the same time, this is a talented group of young men out there. And my expectations, and I think their expectations, should be to hold each other accountable to do the little things. The effort plays, the loose balls, the contested shots and so forth, diving on the floor.

    "These are things that should be expected when you're in a place that we're at right now, where we're clawing and grappling for every single thing we can. That's what I would hope to see over these next 28 games, and that's probably, to be quite frank, some things I haven't seen. The level of effort and the level of compete has not always been there."

    Many pointed to the Nets' 144-122 defeat against the Milwaukee Bucks as the reason for Vaughn's firing. The Nets were fined $100,000 for violating the NBA's player participation policy after choosing to both rest and sit a number of key players.

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    "Again, I don't think there was one decision that ultimately affected the record or [making] this decision this day. I think a lot of things went into that."

  • Timberwolves looking to 'maintain edge' at top of West after All-Star break Timberwolves looking to 'maintain edge' at top of West after All-Star break

    The Minnesota Timberwolves are top of the Western Conference but know they will have to "maintain that edge" as they return to action following the NBA All-Star break.

    Minnesota have not been beyond the first round of the playoffs in 20 years, yet they are in position to earn the number one seed through 55 games, boasting a 39-16 record and a 1.5-game lead over the Oklahoma City Thunder.

    The All-Star break has been a busy one for the T-Wolves, with Chris Finch coaching the West outfit, which included Anthony Edwards and team-mate Karl Anthony Towns, who scored 50 points.

    The team have also agreed a two-year contract extension with guard Mike Conley Jr., according to reports. He had been set for free agency at the end of the season.

    Finch is now hoping he will find a focused team in Minnesota as they seek to build on a superb start to the year.

    "We've just got to try to pick up where we left off," he said. "We know the intensity in these games are going to ramp up more and more.

    "We've got to make sure that we maintain that edge. We've done a good job of developing a good offensive rhythm in the past few weeks, so we've got to maintain that.

    "Hold serve at home; we've got a lot of home games coming up here out of the break. There's lots of things we can do to keep furthering ourselves."

    There was an unfamiliar feeling for Finch in the All-Star Game, seeing his team handily beaten by the East in an encounter that drew criticism for its lack of competitive play.

    The format may no longer be widely popular, but Finch certainly enjoyed the rare opportunity to coach players like LeBron James and Stephen Curry.

    "Looking around the locker room, there's probably 12 first-ballot Hall of Famers in there," he said. "It's something I'll remember forever."

    The Timberwolves return against the Milwaukee Bucks at Target Center on Friday.

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